BLACK FIELD GENERALS-
Gary Norris Gray-Staff Reporter
Even with Black quarterbacks Doug Williams (1988), Russell Wilson (2014), and Patrick Mahomes (2019) already having won three Super Bowls, and others playing in eight, as the National Football League approaches its 100th anniversary with Black quarterbacks still having to prove they belong on the field. From Fritz Pollard in 1923 to Patrick Mahomes in 2021, they still have to prove that they belong behind center and not repositioned elsewhere as a wide receiver, tight end, or defensive back. They still have to prove their intelligence against the doubters, even after the fact of winning three Super Bowls.
We must first tip our hats to our first Black Field Generals of the past. We here at BASN Newsroom began calling African American quarterbacks Field Generals ten years ago by the way they direct their teams down the field.
Let’s start with head coach and quarterback Fritz Pollard in 1923 with the Hammond Pros. Pollard was the first African American head coach but very few football fans know this because the Sports media limits the access this fact.
In 1933 Joe Lillard-Chicago Cardinals became the lone Black player in the league in 1933 because the league instituted a Black list for all African American players. George Taliaferro-New York Yanks became the third in 1949 after the end of a gentlemen’s agreement to ban African Americans lead by George Preston Marshall owner of the Boston Redskins-Washington Football Club.
Willie Thrower got drafted in 1953 by the Chicago Bears and played only one season, not only that he only played one game against the San Francisco 49ers. George Halas would pull him out of the game for George Blanda who was injured in the third quarter. Halas denying Thrower a chance to score a touchdown when he reinserted Blanda to finish the game..
Moving into the modern era Marlin Briscoe of the Denver Broncos in 1968 would become the first African American quarterback in the American Football League – AFL. The Broncos did not want him as a quarterback and informed him that if he wanted to stay in Denver he would have to switch position to wide receiver a common practice for college Black quarterbacks moving into the professional leagues at that time. Briscoe would beat the Broncos participating in a Super Bowl game playing with the Miami Dolphins as a wide receiver.
One year later in Buffalo, New York James Harris an HBCU graduate out of Grambling State University became the first African American to start the season at quarterback with the Buffalo Bills. It did not last long Harris would be shipped to Los Angeles and the Rams. He is the first African American quarterback to lead two different teams to the playoffs. Harris retired with the San Diego Chargers in 1981. James “Shack” Harris was the hardest throwing quarterback in NFL history at that time. Today that would be a normal throw.
In 1972 a little skinny kid from another HBCU Tennessee State would be drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Joe Gilliam from Charleston West Virginia would guide the Steelers to a 4-1-1 record in 1973 before being pulled by Chuck Knoll putting in Terry Bradshaw at quarterback. Gilliam would never get a chance to show his skills. African American quarterbacks were not allowed to go into a slump or a long losing streak. One chance that’s it for Black quarterbacks. That is still the story today. The demotion sent Gilliam into a downward mental spin and out of football.
In 1988 Doug Williams the second starting quarterback from Grambling State would be the first Field General to take his team to the Super Bowl. Number 17 became the first African American quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
Twenty years later after Marlin Briscoe, Doug Williams would win over the Miami Dolphins for the championship. Every Black football fan said in unison a collective,”Get up Doug Get up,” after he suffered a leg injury in the second period, lying on the turf. Not only did he get up he broke five Super Bowl records.
Meanwhile up in the Canadian northwest a man named Warren Moon started winning Grey Cups with the Edmonton Eskimos, five in a row. Nobody in the NFL has done that not even Tom Brady. Moon cannot be overlooked because of his NFL stats with the Houston Oilers and Minnesota Vikings. Moon would become a mentor to many young African American quarterbacks today like Cam Newton.
Almost thirty years would past before another Black Field General would enter the Super Bowl. In 2000 the Tennessee Titans with Steve “Air” McNair from (HBCU) Alcorn State became the second African American quarterback to guide his team but came up one yard short of beating the Saint Louis Rams.
In 2005 The Philadelphia Eagles with Donovan McNabb flew his Birds to Jacksonville to the Super Bowl with a cast of nomads and wide receiver All Star Terrell Owens playing on one leg. Philadelphia come close in the second half but the Eagles never had a chance. They could not beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
From 2013 to 2016 African American quarterbacks would play in the Super Bowl. This could have been a stepping stone for the National Football League to promote diversity with the Black quarterback. The League dropped the ball and we are still having discussions about Black men leading their teams to victory.
In 2013 Colin Kaepernick-University of Nevada at Reno willed the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl with his legs not only that he started a political movement that is still with us today. The Niners would lose to the Baltimore Ravens after a 40 min. delay due to a power outage at halftime. The sports culture would never be the same with Kaepernick’s call to justice, freedom, and equality on and off the field.
In 2014 and 2015 a little guy from the University of Wisconsin would set the NFL on fire. Sports broadcasters claimed that this Black quarterback was too short and could not see over his linebackers. Russell Wilson would become the first African American quarterback to be in back to back Super Bowls. The first Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl since Doug Williams over forty years ago. Russell was anonnoted the first five star general winning more games than anybody including Tom Brady his first eight years.
In 2016 Superman entered the building but the Denver Broncos would be his kryptonite. Number 1 Cam Newton tried his best to give the Carolina Panthers their first Super Bowl. His offensive line could not keep the orange and blue off of him. The Panthers lost to Peyton Manning. Cam was given a reputation after walking out of the post game interview because he would not play the nice guy role after losing. Tom Brady can walk off the field and not shake hands with either Manning brother after losing but Mr. Newton is the bad guy.
In 2020-21 It has come full circle because the first AFL (Kansas City Chiefs) team to play the championship game in 1967 and the second AFL team to win the football championship game in 1970-71 will do it again this year. The K.C. Chiefs will follow in the footsteps of the Seattle Seahawks and General Wilson in back to back Super Bowl appearances with the promotion of five star general Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes became the third Black quarterback to win the Super Bowl and the second to play in back to back Super Bowl and could be the first African American to win back to back NFL championships. Once again Tom Brady stands in the way.
Black Starting quarterbacks in 2020-21. These names could be the future Super Bowl Champions
Each player and number had started at least one game this year
Number 1. Cam Newton- New England Patriots
Number 1. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Number 2. Jameis Winston– New Orleans Saints
Number 2. Jalen Hurts- Philadelphia Eagles
Number 3. Russell Wilson– Seattle Seahawks
Number 4. DeShaun Watson– Houston Texans
Number 4. Dak Prescott– Dallas Cowboys-
Number 5. Teddy Bridgewater– Carolina Panthers-
Number 5. Tyrod Taylor– Los Angeles Chargers-
Number 7. Dwayne Haskins- The Washington Football Club-
Number 8. Lamar Jackson- Baltimore Ravens
Number 11. P.J. Walker– Carolina Panthers
Number 15. Patrick Mahomes– Kansas City Chiefs
BLACK QUARTERBACKS ON THE SIDELINES
1. Geno Smith- Seattle Seahawks- In 2017 Smith started for the New York Football Giants and he is the first to start for both teams in the Meadowlands. The Giants are the last team to start an African American quarterback.
2. Jordan Love- Green Bay Packers- Green Bay will play Aaron Rogers until he falls down and can’t run anymore. Mr. Love needs patience in the great mid-west.
3. Robert Griffin III- Baltimore Ravens- Hard luck player who took the Washington Football Club to the playoffs on one leg. He may never get another chance. Griffin just has to be ready with Jackson get injured.
4. Josh Dobbs– Pittsburgh Steelers- Dobbs is another young colt in waiting from the University of Tennessee. Big Ben may have a few more years in Steeler-land so Dobbs may have to wait. There is also new competition with the Washington Football Club’s quarterback Haskins now wearing Black and Gold in 2021.
5. Jacoby Brissett- Indianapolis Colts- Let the man play Brissett showed talent in New England before begin traded to the Colts. The last two years Brissett had good numbers but the ownership might be heading in another direction. He step in after Andrew Luck Retired and moved the Colts to a 5-2 record before being replaced. It sounds like the Pittsburgh – Gilliam episode all over again.
Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian, Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston, Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor News Radio Network, Disabled Community Activist. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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